Politics in Pakistan is a dangerous and dirty business dominated by large landlords and other groups known more for their avarice and deceit than their desire to bring change for the people.
So, many people are surprised to learn that there is a new political party in the country, which has been set up by a group of mild mannered professionals.
The party - Mustaqbil Pakistan - was registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan in 2010. Since then it has made some surprising progress. It has some 20 offices in the country, has participated in a by-election, and is starting to capture the minds and hearts of voters.
Mustaqbil Pakistan believes that the root of all of Pakistan's problems is that the people who sit in the assemblies are incompetent, ignorant and insincere. The party wants to bring into politics the best of Pakistan's people - competent, honest, decent, educated and sincere. Even partial success in achieving this goal would be like sunrise after a long dark night.
In the two years since the party was formed its leaders have travelled the length and breadth of the country. In remote rural areas they have sat with poor villagers on their frayed charpais and sipped their generously proffered doodh pati. In some of the largest cities, they have walked through impossibly narrow lanes to meet the poorest urban dwellers in their tiny homes where often the only furnishing is a rug on the floor. On the road, they have stopped at dozens of teashops to chat with truck drivers and farmers. They have addressed hundreds of corner meetings across the country.
The people they met are the real ones. They are poor. Many are illiterate. But they know exactly what is going on. And they are ready for change.
Mustaqbil Pakistan believes that the change they want is possible. Traditionally feudal landlords have exercised almost complete control in the rural areas. And since this is where most of the country's population lives, these are the people who have controlled the political agenda. But their control is not what it used to be. Many factors working in combination have, over the years, pried open their grip. Three of these factors bear special mention.
First, the unprecedented expansion of the electronic media - TV and radio - over the past decade has raised awareness amongst the rural population. Politicians (read feudal landlords) who they would only see once in five years during election time are now on their TV screens every night. And they are the sorriest of figures - uncouth, mendacious, avaricious and stupid. Their incredulous constituents wonder as they watch: Are these the people we voted to parliament?
Second, heritage has resulted in fragmentation of land holdings. A piece of land held by a single landlord at independence 65 year ago is now, two generations later, held by 15 or 20 of his descendants.
This has diluted their power. And they now compete with each other to seek favour with their serfs - a situation unimaginable to their forefathers.
Finally, urbanisation and migration have provided new sources of income to the rural population. At many corner meetings in villages the bulk of the audience is old men. This is because all the young men are either in the cities or abroad earning for their families and communities.
Economic independence has brought in its wake political independence for much of the rural population.
Cumulatively these factors have changed the dynamics of rural politics in Pakistan. The landlords remain powerful. But this is not the 'structural' power of the past. Rather it is power bestowed by chief ministers in provincial capitals who oblige local police stations to be subservient to the ruling party's landlords.
This is not to suggest that the task ahead is easy. Huge obstacles need to be addressed and overcome: coercion, violence and rigging during elections, proliferating lawlessness, spiraling inflation and unemployment. The people who run Mustaqbil Pakistan are aware of the challenges. Only time will tell if we have the ability to overcome them.